Sides differ on safety of herbicide used in spraying

Justin Dickie
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AMHERST Barb Harris says the Department of Environment and the Pest Management Regulatory Agency don't know the dangers of aerial herbicide spraying.

"They shouldnt be telling people things are safe when theres quite a bit of evidence that they arent and that its not true that approval means safety," said Harris, who has some knowledge on herbicide spraying as an Environmental Health Association of Nova Scotia managing board member.

AMHERST Barb Harris says the Department of Environment and the Pest Management Regulatory Agency don't know the dangers of aerial herbicide spraying.

"They shouldnt be telling people things are safe when theres quite a bit of evidence that they arent and that its not true that approval means safety," said Harris, who has some knowledge on herbicide spraying as an Environmental Health Association of Nova Scotia managing board member.

In a recent interview, district manager of the Department of Environment and Labour Brad Skinner said the aerial herbicide spray Vision and its active ingredient glyphosate have very low toxicity and pose little to no risk to animals and humans, according to the PMRA.

But Harris claims the PMRA only takes into account the active ingredient and not the other chemicals in the herbicide when conducting its analysis. According to Harris, the other ingredients, and how they interact with the active ingredient, could pose major risks to humans.

Meg Sears, a medical writer and biochemical engineer based in Ottawa said there are many "strong" studies suggesting there can be side affects as severe as genetic alteration and reproductive damage when exposed to the herbicide. Weaker side affects may include rashes, difficulty breathing, sore throat and eye irritation.

According to PMRA spokesperson Jennifer Powroz, they first registered glyphosate as safe to use in Canada in 1976 and Vision in 1987. She said active ingredients and herbicides are re-evaluated on a cyclical basis, roughly every 15 years.

"The PMRA carefully reviews all the data submitted, including the raw data, to determine if the product is acceptable for use in Canada, and cross checks between studies as an additional measure of validation of the final decisions," Powroz said. "If a risk is identified in the risk assessment, then mitigation statements are required on the label to reduce those risks to acceptable levels.

"When used according to label directions, glyphosate is not expected to pose a risk to human or animal health."

Organizations: Pest Management Regulatory Agency, Environmental Health Association of Nova Scotia, Department of Environment and Labour Brad

Geographic location: Canada, Ottawa

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